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Help me pick interesting pages of comic art…

Clint and Kate - Phone conversation by David AjaI have to say, the best part of teaching a class about funny books has been being able to take my ideas and blog about them and ask people for ideas and get actual useful ideas back. This was really useful back when I was trying to pick my book list. So I figured I’d do the same thing here for an project I’m thinking of doing with my class next week.

Here’s the basics. I’ll be teaching Understanding Comics starting on Monday. I want to get the students to start thinking about the way visual information is laid out on a page in order to tell a story. A lot of times we focus on art style or the way in which a character is drawn (or in the case of superheroes, especially female ones, the way in which her costume is sexualized). I’ll be getting into that too, but one of the things I want them to learn to focus on is the more ephemeral quality of how an image is laid out on a page and how that relates back to the story that is being told.

So, after we get through the book, I think my Friday assignment is going to be watching this video by Strip Panel Naked on Youtube (a series that is amazing, by the way). This is an extremely good explanation of the thing I am talking about where he does a great analysis of this page of Hawkeye art by David Aja.

Extremely well done analysis. I’m thinking of giving a homework assignment where I ask them to pick apart a single page of comic art in the same way. How does the layout (and art style and really just total presentation) work in conjunction with the story being told on that single page?

So what I’m looking from other people are some examples. Point me at some of your favorite single pages of comic book art. Tell me why. Bonus points if you can give me the image or a link to it, but if you don’t have one and just want to mention a certain page, please do so. Hell if you have any feedback at all, I am curious.

102 comments for “Help me pick interesting pages of comic art…

  1. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:15 am

    People who might have interesting insight here off the top of my head:

    Wayne Wise, Tim Bruhn Yang, H. Jameel Al Khafiz, Chris Gavaler, Mikey Wood, Mike Wood, Nicole Freim, Abigail M. Palbus, Katya Gorecki, Kane Anderson, Amber Love, Danny Fingeroth, Keith Thomas, Keith Irwin, George L. Stewart, Marcel Lamont Walker, Helena Nichols, Peter Ravn Rasmussen, Dawn Griffin, Chris Flick, Byron Wilkins, Scott Hedlund, Dan Greenwald, Geofferi Von Dora, Jason R Bender, Max Stephen Bajzek, Andy Stowell, Sam Panico, Laura Valentine, Michael Strauss, Chris Rapier, Jenn Bakal, Brandon Link Copp-Millward, Joe Darowski, Michael Higgins, Carol Fox

    probably a ton of other people too… but those are just people off the top of my head who may have commented on these before.

  2. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:26 am

    That’s a great youtube series. Now I have to use it!

  3. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I can’t find any online images, but I think a page from one of the “Nuff Said” comics that Marvel released would be a good choice. A lot of those pages were very powerful despite not having a single word of dialogue.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:30 am

      I’ve not read it. I’ll have to find a copy. When did it come out? I wonder if Phantom of the Attic Comics (Oakland) has it? Wayne?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Every single comic in the Marvel line-up got a single “Nuff Said” comic in December of 2001 (some came out in January or February). The dialogue free comics were a tribute to 9/11.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:32 am

      Oh yes! I remember that. I’d totally forgotten about it.

  4. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Oh, check out Gaydos’ layouts for Alias: Jessica Jones (2001). Great stuff to analyze. And I just wrote a 6000-word essay visually analyzing the first issue of Elektra: Assassin (1987). Sienkiewicz is amazing.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:31 am

      I had not considered Alias. That might be a good one.

      I had considered Elektra. Do you have a page in particular that you think would be good to give them? Also, is your essay online or is it for the upcoming book? I’d love to point them at it as a sample.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

      The interaction of the layouts is key, but the varying uses of abstraction levels is great within page 14 especially.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Not published yet, online or otherwise. Want me to send the essay to you as a word doc?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:48 am

      I’d certainly want to read it. The question is do you mind me sharing it with 34 undergrads?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Oddly, I don’t. Though tell them it’s a preview of a chapter to be published next year and make them swear not to share it (not that they would) so I don’t get in trouble with my publisher. Actually, given your focus on gender, I was thinking about asking you if you’d be interested in reading a chapter called “The Gendered Superhero,” as well as “The Black Superhero.” Though a horrible horrible moment in the year to ask! Still, let me know. I’d love some feedback, and it might be of some use to you.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

      I’d be happy to. I just might not get to them too after 9/1 when my comps spec paper is due. (Which you’re oddly cited in, btw)

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Cited in! I’m honored! What’s your preferred email? I’ll dump all three chapters on you for you to ignore at your leisure.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:11 am

      I have a section about structural mythology texts being built through comics and seeing as how you wrote a book about it…

      Email: mav at elseworld dot com or mav at chrismaverick dot com. Either one is fine.

      And thanks. I look forward to them.

  5. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:31 am

    When you say page layout the first guy I think of is Jim Steranko.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Steranko is certainly a good pick…

      you can use that response to almost any comics question

  6. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Swamp Thing #34. It’s a love scene. That’s why I like it.

  7. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I’m also going to offer a counterexample. Page 61 of Mad Love. Mad Love is one of my favorite comic books of all time, but page 61 is pretty much an example of how not to depict a fight scene. With the exception of the last two panels, you could pretty much rearrange all the panels on the page and not change the story in any way.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Which arguably could also be the point. Is the fight a cohesive blow by blow account of what is going on, OR is it a montage giving the feeling of the fight?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:44 am

      I absolutely love the comic, so I’m not a great person to argue against it, but compared to other similar pages in the comic, this one is the least temporal / cohesive.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Stealing this one.

  8. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I don’t know if a two page spread that is designed to be a single page counts, but I’ll mention one. The final page of X-Men #41 (1991), Legion Quest 4. The image is stark and surprisingly moving.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:47 am

      It still counts. But I don’t recognize that story off the top of my head either. So if you have a link to the image that would be helpful.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 10:50 am

      I looked really hard, but couldn’t find the image I was looking for online. I own the comic, but don’t have a scanner that can scan a two page spread. It is the final scene before the start of the Age of Apocalypse. It is the scene where the crystallization wave hits the Earth and every single image is a scene that is a pink crystallization of the actual scene.

  9. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

    There’s a specific page from L&R… Jaime’s Love Bunglers GN, that I will show you when I get back next week.

  10. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 11:13 am

    John Byrne on Fantastics Four had some interesting layouts. It seems like when the artist is also the writer they get stronger with the layouts

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Hmmm… this is a really interesting one because of the reading ACROSS the the spine and the use of perspective in the city panel on the bottom

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Another guy who’s a powerhouse of layout is Marcos Martin. Look how he guides your eye around this page.

  11. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

    The first person who comes to mind is Bill Watterson, actually — which might be a bit odd, but he had a lot of conflicts over the layouts of his strips, esp. the Sunday strips, because he wanted to do creative things with them. http://calvinandhobbes.wikia.com/wiki/Sunday_comics might be of interest

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:34 am

      yeah, Watterson is famous for demanding that the newspapers carry his strips in the intended layout because that was the point. Up until then (and even now for lesser creators) newspapers demanded a strict layout so that the strips could be cut apart for space demands.

      Blondie and Peanuts and a lot of other famous strips often had a layout where the FIRST panel was completely optional to the story (and sometimes totally unrelated) in case some newspapers needed to junk it for space.

      That article might even say all of that. I commented before I clicked on it.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Chris Maverick yeah, I posted that link because it shows the various ways the standard format Sunday strip could be altered, and then follows it with an example of an unalterable layout

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Actually, that reminds me of another really good example of panel layout in Sunday comics: Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. https://archive.org/details/LittleNemo1905-1914ByWinsorMccay

  12. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I always like to use The Harvey Pekar Name Story to show something that seems to break all the rules of comics, yet tells an engaging story. It’s 4 pages but is a fairly quick read and is very rich thanks to the Pekar-Crumb collaboration.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Hmmm…. I’m kinda tempted to throw a page of that in. I think I’m going to give them like 10 to choose from to write a short little analysis of. And I wonder if any of them will choose a page where from panel to panel no one moves.

      (A lot of them seem to be a little timid. In their introductory journals to me at least like 5 or 6 said “I’m sorry to say that I probably know less about comics than anyone in this class”)

  13. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I will think about it, but off the top of my head this is the most interesting comic page I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty over the top and pretentious too. http://i.imgur.com/WMAjSwK.jpg

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      I actually was thinking “I really should use something from Promethea. It’s full of stuff like that.”

      That would be one of them.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Hah, we just talked about the Judas Contract a bunch yesterday. They’re going to think I’m addicted to the Teen Titans (and there are worse things)

  14. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Chris Maverick, the page where Dick Grayson escapes Deathstroke from an old 80’s Teen Titans George Perez page immediately came to mind (posted above this comment).

    That being said, I don’t have any more pages that immediately come to mind but I DO have a few resources you might consider:

    1) Anything from the Chris Claremont / John Byrne run of the X-Men

    2) Almost the entire Watchmen series comes to mind in terms of fantastic layout

    3) You would be awfully remised if you forgot to include ANYTHING from Will Eisner – but especially anything from his The Spirit books.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm

      I was thinking of pulling some Eisner. I hadn’t considered the Byrne X-Men specifically. I do need to make sure I have some non superhero stuff in in there though. That’s why Ilked the Pekar/Crumb and Watterson suggestions above.

      They’ll be reading Watchmen in its entirety later in the semester, so i’m avoiding it.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      If you’re looking for some independents and something that isn’t specifically “super heroes”, try Matt Wagner – specifically his later issues of “MAGE – A Hero Discovered” (any issues after issue 5 are really great).

      The great thing about those issues is that he did fantastic full page illustrations of Grendel as a back up feature in the MAGE issues…

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Agreed, though on a single page I’m thinking they might register Mage as “another super hero book” without context.

  15. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    For Mon superhero, pretty much anything from Dave McKean. CAGES, SIGNAL TO NOISE, MR. PUNCH. Anything.

  16. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    G.I. Joe #21 “Silent Interlude”

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      You can toss this in with the bit about Steranko, since it’s essentially an homage

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      The thing I really like about this one is the silent and very gendered idea that “of course Scarlet has a hair pin… she’s a girl. Why would she not have a hairpin at all times?”

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      I know Hama served in ‘nam…my curiosity got the better of me:

      http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r670
      Army Regulation 670–1
      Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia

      pg 28 of 362

      (c) Females will ensure that hairstyles do not interfere with proper wear of military headgear and protective masks or equipment at any time (see 1–8a(1)(a), above). When headgear is worn, the hair will not extend below the bottom edge of the front of the headgear, nor will it extend below the bottom edge of the collar.
      (d) Hair-holding devices are authorized only for the purpose of securing the hair. Soldiers will not place hairholding devices in the hair for decorative purposes. All hair-holding devices must be plain and of a color as close to the soldier’s hair as is possible or clear. Authorized devices include, but are not limited to, small, plain scrunchies (elastic hair bands covered with material), barrettes, combs, pins, clips, rubber bands, and hair bands. Devices that are conspicuous, excessive, or decorative are prohibited. Some examples of prohibited devices include, but are not limited to, large, lacy scrunchies; beads, bows, or claw clips; clips, pins, or barrettes with butterflies, flowers, sparkles, gems, or scalloped edges; and bows made from hairpieces.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Interesting. And note that he did have her use a red pin. I like the attention to detail.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Is this from that one that was like an entire 50-page story with no words?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Yessir. This is from the first silent issue. There was a second (with stormshadow, jinx, and billy) a few years later.

  17. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I get a lot of mileage out of this page at the beginning of the semester in my comics class. It also works well with Charles Hatfield’s essay “An Art of Tensions.”

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Hmmm… I should probably have them read a chapter from Hatfield’s book at some point when we get to the unit on alternative comics.

      I might need to find a hard copy. I only have the ebook. Do you have it?

  18. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Promethea…

  19. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I’m going to point you at Brandon Graham (Multiple Warheads, Prophet) who posted a couple of his Comic Lovers pages on his Tumblr. There’s one that deals with Masamune Shirow’s “Appleseed” and the art of indirect storytelling in comics.

    First, Comics Lovers 5:

    http://67.media.tumblr.com/ed7c248c338e9e3edc85bcffa38f9b0c/tumblr_obmz98uOVU1rm3djoo1_1280.jpg

  20. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    In the simple-but-effective department: the use of graphic typography in the Walt Simonson run of Thor is good. Google “Walt Simonson Thor Doom” for lots of examples…

  21. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Dave McKean from SIGNAL TO NOISE…

  22. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    …and from VIOLENT CASES.

  23. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I’m having a hard time finding links to images of my favorites, BUT because I’m such a nerd about the representation of place in graphic works, anything by Chris Ware fascinates me–this is from Building Stories: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/10/21/books/review/1021-wolk01/1021-wolk01-blog427.jpg

    For something that’s sort of the opposite of the intricacy of Aja and Ware’s work, there is what are probably the most important two pages in Fun Home: http://images.sequart.org/images/fun-home-roy.jpg

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      I’m planning on giving them the Aja page to watch with the video, so the Ware page might definitely work along with some of the others here for homework of “describe the layout”

      the Fun Home one is a good choice too. Just because it’s completely different. Everything up else is about packed and complex layouts. Bechdel on the other hand is doing something elegant in it’s sparseness.

  24. avatar
    August 25, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for all the great examples everyone….

    Hmmm…. Now I’m wondering if the exercise might be more fun if I take all images and BLANK out the dialog boxes and tell them to analyze the panels that way.

    Maybe even post each one twice and tell them to analyze the page WITHOUT the dialogue first and write a paragraph or two about it. Then go back and read the version with dialogue and write another paragraph saying how it changed their reading of it and asking them to think about how the dialogue and images work in conjunction.

    Opinions?

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      I think that’d be a great exercise (which I might steal ?) that’d force them to think about “reading” images with the same intensity as text.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      That’s the idea, yeah… and also to show them that Each loses some semblance of meaning without the other. (I guess I could post all the dialogue without images… but that seems like a much more annoying photoshop job)

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      I’ve done that with the opening page of Watchmen. Works well because the words and pictures are parallel, not interpendent. So the change is marked.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      But maybe not what you want it to do.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      Well, I think the key here is to show that different stories (and writers/artists/teams) use the synergy in different ways. Sometimes symbiotically and sometimes in tension.

      So yeah, it would totally work. But I kind of want to hold off on Watchmen as an example just because they’re going to read the whole thing in a few weeks.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      That’s a great idea.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      I don’t have new suggestions beyond the Promethea and Swamp Thing. Though I could give you some interesting images for later on – there’s some great stuff in The Authority. (one of my chapters is on Jenny Sparks and I have a section analyzing the visuals of her and how she is more often depicted in poses like the male characters rather than the female characters – but I’ll spare you the diatribe unless you’re interested. But that would be for later when they’re more familiar with gender representations)

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      Nicole: Sure, that would be great! We’re starting to talk about gender performance tomorrow actually. Their homework for tonight is actually to find characters that either reinforce or challenge notions of gender and show me the picture and explain why.

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      This is one of the main images I go over. The other two female characters are both posed with legs together, slightly from the side to give a better shot of their hips, their breasts are prominent, their hands are open, heads slightly tilted. The male characters have the wide leg stance, the clenched fists, the broad shoulders. Jenny is in a stance like Apollo and the Doctor, with clenched fists, no hips or breasts to speak of, baggy pants rather than form fitting.

      This is all part of my argument about how the “power” role on the team falls to a woman but she has to act masculine in order to lead. (This is part of my project on representations of women’s anger – and Jenny is the anger as power chapter)

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Perfect. I think I’ll add that to tomorrow’s presentation

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      There are some interesting moments like this in the series – combined with the comments about Jenny’s attitude, it paints an interesting picture of what it takes for a woman to lead. Naturally that chapter is called “The Bitch is Back: Anger as Power”

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      And, glad to know I’m not the only one who is redoing presentations the night before. 🙂

    • avatar
      August 25, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      yeah, I was a big fan of the series. And she was easily my favorite character.

      And of course… I like to say it’s because I like to respond to some of the stuff in the student’s journals… that’s what I like to say. 🙂

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Nicole: Good call on Jenny Sparks. They seemed to like that. Probably a combination of them not knowing who she is and the fact that she so obviously works against the standard depiction of gender norms, especially with the Engineer right in front of her.

      I also ended up using more of a collage so they could see different views of the character. They especially liked the suspenders in that pic (they felt it made her look more androgynous) and the fact that in the sex pic in the lower right she’s kind of realistically in a one night stand instead of posing to be pretty.

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      I also had another slide with Nightwing to show the opposite effect of hypersexualizing a male. Several young ladies especially seemed to like that.

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Nice combo. Glad it went over well.

      There’s a line in Stormwatch where Jenny says she won’t wear a tight suit (I think she calls it a body condom) because she doesn’t have the chest for it.

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      In case you want something for that bare corner, this is one of the other images I discuss. Contrast between Jenny and engineer again, but striking.

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      I like the comparison there between Angie’s traditional feminine leg crossing and Jenny’ manspreading. Very subtle but a lot going on.

    • avatar
      August 26, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      And yes, a couple of the girls also commented on likening that her boobs weren’t huge and saying with the baggy clothes and suspenders, without the head you wouldn’t know if she was male or female.

  25. avatar
    August 26, 2016 at 7:44 am

    I haven’t found the image online, so I’ll have to dig out my physical copy and take a picture, but there’s a beautiful but simple page in Immortal Iron Fist that intuitively makes you read a row of panels backwards (right to left) and does it so simply I didn’t realize it had happened at first.

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